Indonesia Destination Guide

Best time to visit

Indonesia can be visited year-round and experiences a tropical monsoon climate with two distinct seasons. The wet season from October to April brings high humidity and afternoon downpours that can last up to four to five hours bringing with it possible flooding. The best time to visit Indonesia is during the dry season from May to September. The season is characterised by generally warm to hot tropical sunny weather with occasional afternoon rain showers which typically don’t last longer than an hour or two. The weather in mountainous and highland areas experience cooler weather in both seasons. 

 

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Best time to go

Java

The best time to visit Java is during the dry season which runs from May to September. Travel peaks in the months of July and August and accommodation cost are usually much higher. The rainy season falls between October to April with January and February being the wettest months. You should expect some rain throughout the year, even in the dry season. Most rains are short lived and fall in the afternoon for a couple of hours. There is plenty of sunshine year round except in the rainy season when the skies are cloudy.
During the holiday festivities such as Muslim holiday Eid, traffic tends to be heavy especially in Java.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃
 Average maximum temperature
29℃ 29℃ 30℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃ 29℃
 Average hours of sunshine
5 5 6 7 7 7 7 8 8 7 6 6
 Average rainfall in mm
390 280 221 140 118 92 61 65 69 108 133 208

Bali

Although Bali is a year-round destination, the best time to visit Bali and Lombok is during the dry season from May to September. The busiest months are July and August as well as the Christmas/New Year period. This is the best period for water sports such as scuba diving, surfing and snorkelling. For lower hotel prices, consider travelling in April, May, June and September when the weather is still dry and the traffic and beaches are generally less crowded. May is the hottest month in Bali with average temperatures of 28C. The coldest and wettest month is January with average temperatures of 26°C although sea temperatures remain warm. 

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
23℃ 22℃ 23℃ 22℃ 23℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 23℃ 23℃ 23℃
 Average maximum temperature
29℃ 30℃ 30℃ 32℃ 33℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃
 Average hours of sunshine
6 6 7 8 9 10 10 9 9 7 7 6
 Average rainfall in mm
330 266 209 93 88 63 55 31 50 118 168 278

Lombok, Flores and the Gilis

January and February are the wettest months on the islands of Lombok, Flores and the Gilis. It rains every day but is not as heavy as those in Bali. Temperatures remain constant around 29 °C. April sees the onset of the dry season with temperatures climbing to 31 The best time to travel is from May until September, expect hot and sunny days with clear blue skies, occasional showers and cool evenings. July and August are the peak months when hotel prices escalate and beaches are crowded.
November and December are the wettest months of the year and the islands of Lombok, Flores, and the Gilis will often have flooded roads and rough seas causing disruption to inter-island ferry schedules.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 22℃ 21℃ 21℃ 22℃ 23℃ 24℃ 24℃
 Average maximum temperature
31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 30℃ 31℃ 31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃
 Average hours of sunshine
8 7 8 8 8 9 9 9 10 10 9 8
 Average rainfall in mm
97 122 135 92 60 28 20 4 28 109 216 140

Bukit Lawang (North Sumatra)

North Sumatra lies above the equator with many active and dormant volcanoes. On the east, there are mainly coastal low lying areas with mangrove swamps. The sandy beaches of North Sumatra are on the west coast. North Sumatra experiences a tropical climate with cooler temperatures in the highlands. The average temperature is between 21 to 30 degrees Celsius. There are two distinct seasons, wet and dry. The dry season is from late February to September and the wet season from October to January. January and February are the wettest months with temperatures averaging 30 degrees Celsius.

During the wet season, although heavy monsoon rains tend to be short-lived, falling for a couple of hours in the late afternoon, flooding and landslides often occur making travel difficult and roads inaccessible.

The best time of year to visit North Sumatra is from May to September when the weather is ideal for wildlife safaris, jungle activities, hiking and trekking. May and June herald the arrival of the dry season although occasional showers are still to be expected. This is a good time to visit for those who to avoid the crowds and the peak hotel prices. July and August are the two peak months where hotel prices escalate and the holiday crowd returns. Days are dry, the sun is abundant with occasional showers in the late afternoon.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
21℃ 20℃ 20℃ 21℃ 21℃ 21℃ 20℃ 21℃ 21℃ 21℃ 21℃ 21℃
 Average maximum temperature
30℃ 30℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃ 30℃ 29℃ 20℃
 Average hours of sunshine
3 4 5 4 5 4 4 4 3 3 3 3
 Average rainfall in mm
240 167 213 245 286 196 177 223 279 331 329 301

Padang, Sumatra

"dry" from January to October with showers maybe twice a week, particularly in the evening or late afternoon.

"wet" in November and early December with rains nearly every day, particularly in the evening.

Constant breezes assure a good temperature even being in an equatorial area
The night temperature falls from the daily 30/32 ℃ down to 23/25 ℃.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
23℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 23℃ 23℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃ 24℃
 Average maximum temperature
30℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 32℃ 32℃ 32℃ 31℃ 30℃
 Average hours of sunshine
7 8 7 7 8 8 7 7 6 6 6 6
 Average rainfall in mm
351 259 307 363 315 307 277 348 352 495 518 480

Manado (North Sulawesi)

Manado enjoys a tropical climate with a significant amount of rainfall throughout the year. There are two distinct seasons, dry and wet. The wet season lasts from about November to March, with January being the coldest month and rough seas in December and January.
The dry season starts from April and lasts till October, with August the warmest month of the year. For divers, Manado is a year round diving destination as the sites in Bunaken and Manado Bay are sheltered. Generally, visibility remains good even during the rainy season. However, the overall best time to visit North Sulawesi for diving, trekking and water activities is during the months from May to October.

Weather (monthly averages)

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
 Average minimum temperature
22℃ 22℃ 23℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 22℃ 23℃ 23℃
 Average maximum temperature
28℃ 28℃ 29℃ 31℃ 32℃ 30℃ 30℃ 31℃ 31℃ 30℃ 30℃ 29℃
 Average hours of sunshine
5 6 6 8 7 7 8 9 8 7 7 7
 Average rainfall in mm
230 210 190 160 150 130 100 80 100 150 200 220

General travel tips

BUSINESS HOURS
Most businesses are open from Monday to Friday. Government offices are open from 07:30 to 16:00 with some closing for lunch from 12:00 to 13:00. Many retailers are open on Saturday and most shops are open on Sundays.

CLOTHING
Indonesia has a hot and tropical climate, so cotton clothing is recommended. The dress code is casual but do take care to cover arms and legs in the evenings against biting insects. A lightweight raincoat or umbrella is essential during the rainy season from November through March. Visitors should not wear shorts, short skirts or other skimpy clothing when visiting religious sites and temples.

ELECTRICITY
Indonesia switched to 220V recently so in some areas 110V is still used. Most hotels use 220 volts, 50 cycles and round, two-pronged slim plug. Bathroom shaver plugs usually have a transformer switch.

ENTERTAINMENT
There are plenty of entertainment options in Indonesia and restaurants, bars and nightclubs open until late at night or early in the morning.

FOOD
The staple of the Indonesian meal is rice, usually steamed or fried. The meal is complemented with main dishes of vegetables, meat, seafood, egg, fish and soup. Indonesian food is generally hot and spicy.

HEALTH
No vaccinations are required except for yellow fever if you are coming from an area where the disease is present. However, visitors should be vaccinated against typhoid, cholera, hepatitis A and B, tetanus and polio. Malaria is present in most of the region and it is advisable to take precautions especially if travelling off the beaten track.

LANGUAGE
Bahasa Indonesia is the official national language. There are hundreds of regional dialects and variations in the speech from island to island. A large majority of the population speak English.

MONEY
The Indonesian Rupiah (Rp or IDR) is the official currency of Indonesia. ATMs and money changers are found throughout the country and credit cards are accepted at major hotels and some restaurants.

PUBLIC HOLIDAYS
The yearly official public holiday calendar incorporates many religious holidays such as Islam’s Eid in July and the Christian Good Friday in March. Tourist sites remain open although they may be busy with local travellers. Bali is a Hindu island and celebrates much more holidays including the unique Nyepi Festival.

RELIGION
In Indonesia, the majority of the population follows Islam but most Balinese are Hindu.

SAFETY
Indonesia is a safe country to visit. As a global rule, never leave your belongings unattended and always maintain eye contact or a firm grip on cameras and shoulder bags. Do beware of scams and touts that remain fairly common in popular tourist destinations.

SHOPPING
Indonesia is known as a treasure trove of interesting souvenirs and handicrafts. A fascinating array of products, from traditional antiques to the latest quality fashions to ethnic handicrafts can be found in many local markets, shopping malls and boutique shops.

TIME
Indonesia has three time zones—Western Indonesia Time which is GMT +7 (covering Sumatra, Java, Madura, West Kalimantan, Central Kalimantan), Central Indonesia Time which is GMT +8 (covering East and South Kalimantan, Sulawesi, Bali, Nusa Tenggara) and the last is Eastern Indonesia Time which is GMT +9 (covering Maluku and Irian Jaya). The capital Jakarta is GMT + 7

TIPPING
Tipping for good service is not expected but is always appreciated in Indonesia. It is customary to tip tour guides and drivers at the end of a tour. Major hotels add a 10 percent service charge to bills, and a tip to hotel and airport/station porters is always appreciated.

WATER
It is not advisable to drink tap water in Indonesia.

Whilst in Indonesia: a few tips about local customs. Indonesians are a friendly and polite people. Religious customs should also be respected, particularly during the month of Ramadan when eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours should be discreet as it is forbidden by the Muslim culture.

Do:

Shake hands with both hands but without the grasp, and then bring your hands back to the chest. Some Muslim ladies may acknowledge introductions to gentlemen by merely nodding and smiling.
Always take off your shoes when you visit a home or the mosques.
Use your right hand when giving or receiving objects.
Use the thumb of your right hand with four fingers folded under to point at places, objects or persons.
Temple dress code and etiquette: Do wear a head scarf. Appropriate dress is important in places of worship and women should cover their shoulders and legs.

Do not:
Do not touch a person's head as it is considered an offensive gesture.
Do not offer alcoholic beverages to Indonesian Muslims.
Do not use your left hand in handshaking, handing over or receiving something.
Do not eat or drink in public during the month of Ramadan.
Do not kiss or hug a person of the opposite sex in public.